1 July 2015 The Feast of Harriet Beecher Stowe

An excerpt from the biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe as published in Holy Women, Holy Men, Church Publishing, New York (2010):

“Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, and from an early age was influenced by the humanitarian efforts of her famous parents.  Her father, Lyman Beecher, was known for his zealous preaching and involvement in the with the temperance movement, while her mother, Roxana Foote Beecher, ran a school for girls and publicly advocated for the intellectual development of women.  Her sister Catherine led the women’s opposition against the Jackson administration’s Indian Removal Bill.

….(She) was an outspoken critic of slavery, an institution that she believed to be fundamentally incompatible with the theology of her Calvinist upbringing.  An author of many works, she is justly famous for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) a sermon like work that chronicled life of a slave family in the south. In particular, it recounted the tragic consequences of slavery on families, consequences that were to Stowe to b counted as one of the worst evils of slavery.

Stowe’s book inspired the anti-slavery movements in the North and provoked widespread anger in the South,  Her work intensified the sectional conflicts that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln remarked “So this is the little lady who started this great war!”

Stowe’s book, together with her public anti-slavery work, was largely responsible for bringing the evils of slavery to light not only in he United States but in Britain, Europe and Russia.  Tolstoy greatly esteemed her work and moral courage, heaping lavish praise on her,  She was renowned then, as now, for her boldness and willingness to expose the harsh realities of slavery to the public eye.

Perhaps the occurrence of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s feast day at this time of renewed interest in righting the wrongs of the past and healing the wounds caused by the shootings at Emmanuel AME in Charleston is co-incidental, or perhaps it is not but it is a most appropriate commemoration for these troubled times. PN


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